Garveyism and Self-Reliance: A Personal Journey

On August 17, 2012, I was given the opportunity by Jabulani Tafari to speak at the Rootz Foundation's 125th celebration of Marcus Garvey's birthday. I presented the petition to exonerate Marcus Garvey and it was enthusiastically accepted. Since then, I've been speaking at other venues about the importance of Marcus Garvey's work.

Now although some have criticized me as being a new convert to Marcus Garvey, this is not true. During my tenure as a professor at Miami Dade College, I taught Marcus Garvey for almost ten years as part of a course on heroes. 

I've also been cautioned about the timing of the petition. Some say it could be seen as an attempt to embarrass President Obama. That is not my intention. Maybe I'm still naïve, but I believe President Obama is the only choice that we have in the foreseeable future for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey. And that is why I am going to vote for him.

The exoneration of Marcus Garvey is a cause that I've believed in for a long time. But for one reason or another, I kept putting it off. Finally, about two years ago, I started the petition to clear Marcus Garvey's name and had about 1,500 signatures. But then, several Garveyites counseled me on their position and I accepted their advice. I shut down the original petition and launched the new one on June 16, 2012. I had hoped to have at least 5, 000 signatures by August 17, 2012, but that was not to be.

Since then, the signatures have been coming in and I give thanks. The work of Marcus Garvey needs to be re-examined because of its potential to change the lives of Africans at home and abroad. It's changed my life.

For if there was one thing that I learned from Marcus Garvey, it has been self-reliance.

It's because of Marcus Garvey's work that I started to self-publish. Sure, I went through the normal self-doubt that accompanies being a young writer. I sought validation by submitting my work to many prestigious journals and a few of them published my poems and stories. The payment was often one or two complimentary copies and I was happy with that. 

But then, I realized that I did not need the validation of these journals and I was giving away my work for free. So, I've published my own books and relied on my own skills to tell the stories about my people. Maybe my practice doesn't come close to the grand vision that Arundhati Roy spoke of in War Talk, but it comes close: “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe." 

Now more than ever, we are going to need this spirit of self-reliance. With the Supreme Court threatening to do away with affirmative action in colleges and universities, the Black community will also have to re-examine many of Garvey's ideas about education. For I will tell you, I've never met an ignorant Garveyite.

In the meantime, we have work to do and it begins with the exoneration of Marcus Garvey. If you believe in this cause, here's the link:

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